Continental returning to agricultural radial production in 2017

Thursday 30th June 2016 | 0 Comments

 
Agricultural radial production will begin at Continental’s Lousado factory next year; 125 new production jobs will be created
Agricultural radial production will begin at Continental’s Lousado factory next year; 125 new production jobs will be created

Over a number of years, Czech tyre maker Mitas a.s. has distanced itself in steps from the Continental brand it’s produced under licence since 2004. Three years ago the company announced an extension of this licence until 2019, however recent events have spurred Continental AG to reclaim its agricultural tyre brand ahead of this date. Continental has now announced a €49.9 million investment in its own agricultural tyre business, and the company will begin producing agricultural radials next year.

The €49.9 million investment covers the setting up of agricultural tyre production capacities at the Lousado tyre factory in Portugal, a step that will create 125 new production jobs. Once this has been done, Continental intends to observe the market and how sales of its agricultural tyres develop, and if these are positive further investments will be made in agricultural tyre production.

“With this investment, we give a clear sign that Continental is once again active as a premium manufacturer in the agricultural tyre sector with our premium Continental brand,” states Nikolai Setzer, head of Continental’s Tyre division, at the signing of the investment agreement in Lousado. “In Lousado, we have an excellent location and a highly motivated and experienced team, which manufactures cutting-edge radial tyres in a state-of-the-art production facility for the demanding agricultural sector.”

Thorsten Bublitz is the business line manager responsible for Continental’s agricultural tyre business. “Professional agriculture has undergone rapid change over the past few years,” he comments. “In view of the growing world population and the increasing need for agricultural crops, the number of large-scale operations and therefore the demand for efficient agricultural tyres is increasing. This is where we have many years of experience as a premium manufacturer.”

Continental plans to bring a complete tyre portfolio for agricultural tractors and harvesting machines to the market, and will work together with major agricultural vehicle manufacturers to this end. The range will include 150 sizes of radial and cross-ply tyres.

The introduction of agricultural radial tyres under the Continental brand name in 2017 marks the end of the trademark license agreement between Continental and Mitas. “Due the recent decision of the cartel authorities regarding the acquisition of Mitas, Continental is reclaiming its brand rights earlier than 2019 as contractually agreed, and can therefore introduce its agricultural tyre portfolio under its premium brand,” explains Continental in a statement. While we have to wait until next year to see the first Continental agricultural radials come out of the factory in Lousado, Continental already produces cross-ply agricultural tyres in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.

In addition to investing in manufacturing capabilities in Lousado, Continental is investing €2.5 million in a new research and development centre at the site; with this facility, Continental aims to accelerate the growth of its agricultural tyre portfolio. The centre will perform research in close cooperation with the company’s Central Research & Development department in Hannover, Germany, and will initially employ five recently recruited engineers. Plans are already in place to increase the workforce up to ten through the hiring of further highly qualified employees.

Continental also supplies components and systems for agricultural machines and agricultural infrastructure. The range of products extends from comprehensive instrumentation and camera solutions, to sensors, rubber tracks and conveyor belt technology, and exhaust gas treatment. In supplying this combination of components from a single source, Continental considers itself in the position to offer agricultural companies “comprehensive solutions for greater efficiency, environmental friendliness, and conservation of resources.”

The investment in the radial agricultural tyre sector in Lousado forms part of Vision 2025, which was launched in 2011 and is used by Continental’s Tyre division for the strategic planning and systematic implementation of technological progress. Other investments made under Vision 2025 include in the AIBA (Automated Indoor Braking Analyzer) in 2012, the ContiLifeCycle Plant for retreading truck tyres and rubber recycling in Hannover-Stöcken in 2013, and the High Performance Technology Center in Korbach in 2014.

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